United We Stand – And Bike

They’re trying to change the world, their pickets say. Trying is the key word in the Transport Workers Union fight to make sure fathers earn enough to pay the grocery bill and mothers to cover rent. The TWU, idealists that they are, want sick workers to stay home and healthy employees to have regular hours. They’ve been at this a long time, and done well by their union members. But the fight is just starting for their newest members, employees of New York City’s CitiBike bike-share program.

When I spotted the pickets at City Hall, I thanked my union brother for being there and asked how it was going. “Good,” he told me, as he handed me a leaflet. “How are you?” I’m faring fine, brother, in these days my Bubby would envy.

Back when Bubby was at the picket line, standing with two little boys, and watching her husband strike for his right to be paid a living wage to teach the nation’s children how to read, the atmosphere was far from good. None of the striking teachers enjoyed the day, and neither did the police standing by. The police were the ones who told her to take the kids home, because it might get ugly. They got that idea from the fact that bricks had already been thrown, and they weren’t planning to step in. Bubby told them she agreed the kids shouldn’t get hurt – the police were welcome to make sure that neither her kids, nor husband, nor anyone else, got hit – but the kids weren’t going anywhere.

Everyone survived Zaidy’s American Federation of Teachers strike. It took about two weeks for the city to agree that it was worth paying teachers enough to live on so that they could educate the children. The AFT united teachers, forcing the city to negotiate with its educators, rather than dictate to them. The result was a generation of kids taught by teachers with an incentive to help them learn. But, after decades in power, the teachers, parents, and students have forgotten the bitter battles fought over fair pay and working conditions – and their own ability to win those battles. Unionized labor has excelled beyond its wildest dreams, leaving people to forget the nightmares which lead to its formation.

Today, the TWU was surrounded by neither police nor flying bricks. Just a sunny sky and apathetic commuters. And one union sister who is ready to take a stand. Join me in supporting our fellow workers. Write and call:

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THEY CAME BACK: Return of the Fruit Cart

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I’ve missed my local fruit cart. Through the long, cold winter, it was nowhere to be seen. But as the season turns and the birds flock north, my fruit car has returned to me.

Known for a three-block radius – the entire New York City neighbor where I work – this is the fruit cart to beat. Fresh and delicious produce, imaginative signs, and two friendly merchants. One merchant is friendly and doesn’t glare at me when I buy fruit, the other is overly friendly and once proposed to me. If the cart itself is a ray of sunshine, that merchant is a rain cloud who sometimes approaches me with a smile and walks me to the corner. Actually, the cart is a literal ray of sunshine – it’s parked in the only sunny spot on the block.

If you’re looking for me this spring, I’ll be basking in the sun across the street from my fruit cart, waiting for a shift change so I can buy produce without turning down a marriage proposal. If I’ve learned anything from my fruit carts, it’s that you should only negotiate one transaction at a time. Fruit first, marriage later.

Last Ingredients Standing

There are days when I have no food in my pantry. Those are terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days. Both of them. The only times I’m completely at a loss are the day before Peasch and the day after. Or rather, those used to be the days when I scrounged for food or went to bed hungry. Then, last year, I found a solution. The solution is:

Spicy Peanut Butter Rice & Beans

2 c rice, cooked [this year I was out of rice and used barley. It turns out that barley requires less water to cook than rice. I made it work – by dumping out the excess water after the grains had plumped up and then leaving the pot on the burner for another 10 minutes to burn off the excess liquid. Or rather, that was my intent. I forgot about it and had to scrap the pot a bit about leaving the grain on for another 25 minutes.]

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can black beans

8 oz spinach [frozen is all I’ve got right now]

3 tbsp chunky peanut butter

1 – 3 tsp chili powers [to taste]

sprinkling of red pepper flakes

Cook the rice, or what every carbohydrate you have left in your pantry. Separately, in a pan, melt the peanut butter with the frozen spinach, till the spinach is defrosted and the peanut butter evenly incorporated. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve together. It might be excellent with hot sauce, but you’d have to have some in your pantry to enjoy it. Some of us are still working on stocking up the basics.

I realize that this is way more food than most people have when their pantry is empty. If you’re more like the rest of the world than I am, I recommend buying cereal and milk and waiting for the next day. Minimally nutritious and completely delicious.